Working for yourself is a challenging yet rewarding endeavour that many aspire to or see as a way of developing their career whilst retaining control. Self-Employment is defined as being in a situation where you are responsible for managing yourself and organising your own business, often carrying out roles that would normally be delegated to several people.
The number of self-employed workers in the UK is growing significantly, with numbers jumping from 3.8 million in 2008 to 4.6 million in 2015. The Conservative government under David Cameron specifically led campaigns to get more people taking the jump into self-employment in a bid to grow more successful UK businesses.
Terms like ‘Digital Nomad‘ and ‘Part-Time Self Employed’ are more common than ever and the future of self-employment looks bright. Ease of access and increasing incentivising means that there will be more competition in the market however, so self-employed people must be prepared in order to gain the upper hand.
Working for yourself can often be much harder than being attached to an organisation. You are sometimes on your own and advice can be expensive, something, which can be taken for granted if, you’re used to working in a team, or with heavy direction from above.
You are also responsible for all of the functions of your business from finance to IT and even HR if you employ other people. As if this level of organisation and sacrifice of time wasn’t enough, it seems that self-employed people aren’t earning as much as they used to be able to, with earning dropping as much as 20% from 2008 to 2015.
Protecting yourself from the competition and your clients is a key aspect of success when running your own business. Being organised is one thing, but being one step ahead and seeing problems before they happens is the difference between success and failure in many cases. Cash flow is an incredibly problematic area for self-employed people.
Many companies are profitable, but fail because they simply don’t have the cash to pay their debtors. With lines of credit, and customers wanting to pay on 30 day terms, getting the money in to pay for your own liabilities can be tricky. Those who are self-employed should make sure they have a strategy when it comes to chasing up outstanding invoices.
Set out payment terms and send out formal written invoices with a time and date stamp, so that you can keep track of what is owed. Consider using electronic payment services like PayPal to make it easier for your clients and follow up any money owed with regular emails, calls and even letters if necessary. This will create a paper trail if you need to bring a solicitor into the equation.
If you work in a creative industry or you have invented a product, ensure you are not giving your work away to plagiarists or underhanded clients. Consider taking out a patent or ensuring others don’t copy your intellectual property. Document everything you create and have as much proof as possible so that any ‘stolen’ work is covered if you decide to take legal action.
Being self-employed works across all occupations, from creative workers, artists, but also those providing technical, and complicated services. Providing your skills and expertise in the service industry is a lucrative way of escaping the corporate world and having more control over your career.
Providing accountancy or consulting services for example can be an exciting way of working with different people and organisations, and ensuring that niche skills are used fully, but be certain that you know what you are doing before diving into it. Make sure you are fully up to date with any regulations, training or licenses and that you can safely say that you are an expert in your field.
For those who are self-employed that are providing technical advice, you can be held liable for any information that you give to a customer. If your advice to follow a specific tax strategy, invest in a specific company or organise yourself in a specific way results in losses for your customer, you may be legally responsible for those losses.
Professional indemnity insurance can assist, by covering any losses that your customers incur due to bad advice (with the level of cover naturally changing what is and isn’t covered). Not only will this ensure that you’re covered in case the worst comes to pass, but it also provides an additional USP for customers. By being able to alleviate any of your customer’s worries, you provide additional safeguards, and reasons for them to engage, and to retain them as a client.
Keeping track of several different parts of your business can get difficult at times, especially if you work in a project-driven environment or if you are employing other people who manage their own workload. Technology has risen to the challenge, with many services now existing to assist those who wish to manage both their time, their projects, and the time of those who they work with.
Many of those who are self-employed invest in project management software such as Basecamp or Jira or using out of the box productivity suites like Evernote. Free to use software also helps to keep costs down, so take advantage of things like Google Docs and Sheets as well as DropBox and a free Gmail account.
Setting out on your own takes a lot of bravery and a good game plan. With the right level of time management and a few tips and tricks, you can easily wave goodbye to the lower earning potential and take your career to the next level by ensuring your business is at the cutting edge and that you are a level above your competition.